Monday, 2 November 2015

Stravinsky Piece Discovered a Century Later

Igor Stravinsky’s name recently made the headlines when one of his early orchestral works (thought to have been lost for over 100 years) was discovered in a heap of old manuscripts. The 12-minute piece by the Russian-born 20th century composer was found among old manuscripts from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire as they were emptied from the building. ‘Pogrebal’naya Pesnya (The Funeral Song)’ was a tribute to his late teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It was performed just once by a Russian symphony in 1909 and was thereafter assumed to have been destroyed before or during the Civil War in Russia. Igor Stravinsky composed his Pogrebal’naya Pesnya (Funeral Song) in memory of his teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, shortly after Rimsky’s death in June 1908. The 12-minute work was performed only once, in a Russian symphony concert conducted by Felix Blumenfeld in the Conservatoire in January 1909, but was always thought to have been destroyed in the 1917 revolutions or the civil war that followed. Via The Guardian Stravinsky soon after composed ‘The Firebird’, a piece that brought him instant fame. He would have been glad to have the funeral piece back, since he described it as one of his best early works even though he could not remember the music itself. Stravinsky recalled it as one of his best early works, but could not remember the actual music. He was, he said, “curious to see what I was composing just before The Firebird”, the ballet that brought him instant fame when it was staged by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris in June 1910. Via The Guardian Russian musicologists speculated that the manuscript materials were probably still preserved among the heaps of uncatalogued music within the St Petersburg Philharmonic archives or in the Conservatoire. But in the Soviet Union rummaging was definitely not encouraged and expatriate modernist Stravinsky was regarded as a non-person. The search always ran up against the sheer confusion of storage and the absence of any system in buildings that had never been restored, extended or modernised. Via The Guardian Natalys Braginskaya is a Stravinsky specialist from Russia who led a number of searches to find the manuscripts with the assistance of archivists at the Conservatoire, but to no avail. In fact, it was only when the entire building was emptied last autumn in preparation for an overhaul were they finally found. But it was only when the whole building had to be emptied last autumn to make way for a long-delayed overhaul that piles of previously hidden manuscripts emerged from behind rows of stacked piano and orchestral scores, undisturbed for decades, and a librarian found herself staring at the missing orchestral parts which she remembered as precisely the work that Braginskaya had been looking for. Via The Guardian Had the librarian not been paying attention, the materials could have easily been discarded or stored again - out of reach for another 100 years. Stravinsky is greatly remembered for his later works, including ‘The Rite of Spring’ ballet, one of the 20th century’s greatest [...]

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